When 56-year-old Lalitha was diagnosed with osteoarthritis her orthopaedic consultant advised her to take it easy and not walk too much. However, staying off her feet didn’t do her any good. On her next visit to her diabetologist, she was asked to lose weight to help manage her condition better. When she confessed that she wasn’t walking too much of late, leave alone exercise, her doctor chided her and asked her to remain active. Osteoarthritis was no reason to stop walking, he said.
Understandably, Lalitha was confused. The common perception among the general population is that a person with osteoarthritis should limit their physical activities to limit the strain on their joints. Experts point out that this is not required. “In fact, a patient with osteoarthritis should make sure that they go for regular walks and do some muscle strengthening exercises. The only difference is that they should try and walk on flat surfaces and wear good walking shoes,” says Dr KJ Reddy, senior orthopaedic consult and knee specialist at Apollo Hospital, Jubilee Hills.
Physiotherapy, he says, is one of the key factors in treating osteoarthritis. “Patients should be trained by a physiotherapist to strengthen their muscles, especially the quadriceps. This way their muscles can share the load that falls on the joints. A lot of people seem to think that walking wears their joints. This is not true. In fact, it strengthens muscles aiding the joints,” he explains.
Strenuous activity may be ruled out for patients with osteoarthritis, but not complete physical activity. Besides, a lot of people with weight issues and osteoarthritis are advised to lose weight as it helps reduce the load on the joints. “This might seem difficult since they think they cannot exercise as much. However, they can do activities like swimming (hydrotherapy), static bike and cross trainer. Initially, they should do this under the guidance of a physiotherapist as they can be taught how to modify the load on the exercise equipment. They should also go for regular walks. This might be painful at first, but the pain will become more manageable once they do it regularly,” says Dr Reddy. So go ahead. Don’t let osteoarthritis stop you.